You hear it everywhere: gingivitis, gum disease, periodontal disease and tooth loss. Is it really as big of a deal as it’s made out to be? An estimated 90% of adults in the US have some form of gum disease, but gum disease can include a broad spectrum of conditions and vary in the severity of disease conditions.
Gum disease starts as simple gingivitis, but when left untreated can turn into periodontal disease (a condition linked with systemic diseases), which causes loss of the teeth. Gingivitis is simply the inflammation, redness and swelling along the margin of the gumlines near the dental crowns. Not brushing efficiently, properly, or avoiding flossing can lead to the development of gingivitis. This inflammation is due to the body’s immune response to plaque biofilm along the gumlines around each tooth.
If plaque biofilm is allowed to persist, it calcifies into tartar. Tartar is impossible to brush or floss off and can only be removed by your dentist or dental hygienist. The development of tartar triggers a more severe immune response as it develops farther down under the gumlines, creating deep pockets of unattached gums around the tooth. These areas typically bleed during brushing or flossing, but may be totally asymptomatic in individuals that smoke or use tobacco products.
Untreated, this bone loss is known as periodontal disease and will cause teeth to become loose or even fall out. If treatment is received in a timely manner, periodontal disease can be treated or even reversed, saving the health and life of the teeth.
Gingivitis is a type of gum disease (or periodontal disease) caused by the normal bacteria found in the mouth. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and also the most easily treated. However, if left untreated, gingivitis can develop into much more serious gum disease that can ultimately result in the loss of the patient’s teeth.
The mouth is full of naturally occurring bacteria. These bacteria collect on our teeth and form a sticky substance called plaque. Brushing our teeth and flossing helps to remove plaque, but any plaque that is not removed will harden into tartar that cannot be removed by brushing. Tartar can be removed only by a professional dental cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
The bacteria in plaque and tartar can irritate the gums, especially if the tartar and plaque are below the gum line, causing the gums to be sore, red, and inflamed. This inflammation is called gingivitis. The classic symptoms of gingivitis include red, irritated gums that may bleed easily during brushing. Bad breath is sometimes associated with gingivitis.
Although anyone can get gingivitis, smokers are more likely to develop the disease. Other factors that increase the risk of gingivitis include diabetes and diseases or medications that compromise or suppress the immune system.
Gingivitis can usually be treated by a professional dental cleaning. Gingivitis that is not treated promptly will often develop into much more serious gum disease. Gingivitis can be prevented by following good oral health habits including regular dental cleanings and checkups, brushing and flossing, and avoiding tobacco products.
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